The five ladies who ended up in the royal court not only were strong onstage (although people may argue if some of them are more stellar than the others below them–there are at least 50 commendable performances, remember?) but the key thing that distinguished them from the rest was the poised manner in which they delivered their speeches. Not only were their speeches the best, they were also all delivered with cool composure.
4TH RUNNER-UP: U S A – Kaitryana Leinbach. This blonde indeed ended up duplicating the placement of her predecessor as she’s another strong consistent performer, this time a vision in silver sequins in both national costume (Statue of Liberty) and evening gown. Her speech exhibits a maturity beyond her 18 years of age: “This organization is founded to promote goodwill to all people. But how can we truly make a difference? To answer this I’ll tell you a story my father always told me–at 211°F water is really hot but at 212° water starts to boil. And boiling water causes steam that can power a locomotive and even an entire country. And what was the difference? Just one degree. And all of us can be that one degree to inspire change in the world… If chosen, please send me on long-term charity missions for the entire year. I would like to pack my workweek, put my hair in braids, and work hard to bring hope to every community in the world. Because to me, hope is disaster relief, hope is social justice, equality, and freedom. Hope is service to humanity. And service gives purpose and meaning to human life.” It’s a very creative speech and shows a motivated, idealistic lady. Though I doubt this pageant is capable of sending the winner for such long-term missions, I hope despite the outcome of the US election, she keeps the sentiments she expressed in her speech and make a difference in society despite the potential spectres and obstacles inherent in a Republican Donald Trump administration. Who knows she can eventually succeed where Hillary Clinton had failed.
3RD RUNNER-UP: NICARAGUA – Brianny Chamorro. She started garnering buzz after the forum, as it turns out she has an excellent command of English and is an eloquent speaker. On top of that, she earned Best National Costume for her blue-and-gold intricately embroidered Mayan outfit. She also kept up well with the stage dynamos, garnering compliments for her gold sequined evening gown. She earned her Top Five status with her superbly composed speech, pointing out that if she becomes Miss International, she will demonstrate that “beauty is about having a good heart, about continually seeking opportunities to develop yourself as a person, about leading a leader through example, and about using your unique qualities to serve, contribute and influence others in positive ways. I would like to contribute to this world by promoting the values of respect and tolerance. We need a world that values and appreciates diversity of cultures and beliefs that they are, and I believe the only way to do it is through tolerance, respect, and acceptance.”
2ND RUNNER-UP: INDONESIA – Felicia Hwang. She delivered on her status as favorite with her grace, beauty, and elegance. This is especially evident in her stunning Chinese porcelain-inspired blue-and-white evening gown with cape, which earned her the Best Dresser award. I have to quibble that the first thing that came to my mind when I saw her walk in the swimsuit round was that she earns the “Flapper”* award for this pageant. For her speech, she talked about how “Miss International symbolizes the core values that all women should posses: love, dignity, and respect for diversity. I am confident that I am able to uphold the duty of Miss International by bridging the spirit of goodwill and peace to all nations. Why is unity in diversity so important? Because the world has been faced with wars, terrorism, and culture (sic) tensions and these causing millions of people to suffer. We have enough wake-up calls. It is time for us to change the culture of war and let us respect each other and embrace diversity for a certain future.” She opened and closed her speech with Japanese greetings which won over the audience. Another well-composed, top-notch speech. It’s just that two other ladies gave better speeches that touched on a “key theme”…
*”Flappers” are the fashionable women in the 1920s–this era is characterized by flattened chests, hence the term. It’s the opposite of my BB Sweepstakes award (which goes to Tunisia this year).
1ST RUNNER-UP: AUSTRALIA – Alexandra Britton. She wasn’t in the radar of most pageant fans and pundits, and I thought even though in my preview article that she’s a good looking stand-out, I though USA had the edge as the blonde-most-likely-to-go-farthest. Albeit her stage moves are simple, it turns out she makes maximum impact with them and delivered the goods when it counts. But she then surged past perceived favorites when she delivered her speech. After graciously thanking the Miss International Organization and Japan, her message goes like this: “Every woman here represents her own country, her own culture, and every one is different from the next. It is our differences that makes our world a more exciting and beautiful place. Being an educator I have a love of learning and a passion to spread the message of love and acceptance, to embrace diversity, especially to our younger generation. As Miss International 2016, I will inspire the young, in the hope that they will shape the world into the world that it should be–a world of peace, mutual respect and understanding.” I’ve noticed that it seems this pageant has secret code words that the judges would look for in speeches and if the semifinalist mention that code word, they will be justly rewarded. This lady is one of the two who found it–this year’s code word is “understanding”, and because of that, she upset the expected 1-2 Philippine-Indonesia finish and sandwiched herself between them.
MISS INTERNATIONAL 2016: PHILIPPINES – Kylie Versoza. She’s always been one of the favorites to win this pageant from the time she garnered the right to represent the Philippines in this pageant. She cast an indelible spell during her performance at Bb. Pilipinas that time at the Araneta Coliseum, and I was expecting that Kylie to surface at the Tokyo Dome to slay the competition. But let me play devil’s advocate as when I saw her in swimsuit and evening gown, not that I was let down, but I wasn’t as blown away as I was back in Bb. Pilipinas. I was surprised to see her in a one-piece swimsuit–sure there is a bit of a tease with the low-cut front (which she used her hair and her sash to cover for modesty’s sake), but in my opinion what saved the presentation was her stage moves, as the swimsuit for me didn’t really flatter her figure–Poland also appeared in a one-piece swimsuit, but hers is one that flatters her shape as it’s sleek and streamlined and Kylie’s wasn’t.
Now what about the light blue Francis Libiran gown she wore? It is well made the way all Francis Libiran gowns are impeccably styled. But it has a simple silhouette that I felt at first glance that Kylie missed a golden opportunity to decisively pull away from the pack, especially with the presence of Indonesia and her superb embroidered “Chinese porcelain” blue gown. Still I know she did well in this round. Then upon further reflection, the gown color also evoked a classic gown almost four decades ago–Miss Universe 1980 3rd runner-up Chat Silayan‘s Renee Salud number, with shoulder straps, a looser fit at the leg area and sans shawl and chiffon bottom.
As I have mentioned when I discussed Canada before, I initially thought Canada might win this competition, even though Kylie also delivered a sterling speech, as follows: “Three things come to mind when I think of Miss International: culture, education, and international understanding. These 3 work together to make the brand of the Miss International beauty pageant relevant to the global community and to our time. If I become Miss International 2016, I will devote myself to cultural understanding and international understanding because I believe that it is by developing in each of us sensitivity to other cultures that we expand our horizons, tolerate difference, and appreciate diversity. All this enables us to achieve international understanding. And I believe that I am prepared to take on this responsibility.” It turns out Kylie unlocked the secret code word for this year, “understanding”, and now realizing how Canada was nervous in her delivery, it does turn out that Kylie indeed delivered the best speech of the afternoon/evening. Listening and reading it again, it also dawned on me that Kylie embodied what she said, especially with the way she studied and embraced Japanese culture in her gorgeous fashion shoots (that is why I nicknamed her “Kylie Namiyumi“), and her refined, deferential mannerisms onstage revealed how she was able to effectively evoke the modern Yamato Nadeshiko, the Japanese feminine ideal, and that might be the deciding factor that helped her ultimately win our 6th Miss International crown.
There are also a couple of portents that also indicated Kylie’s destiny in this pageant. First, there was a photograph circulating where Miss International 2015 Edymar Martinez graciously helped Kylie out with the cape of her evening gown in one of the gala events prior to the final. Then, the style of gown that Edymar wore as she handed her crown made me recall Kylie’s Bb. Pilipinas gown–yes, Edymar’s poofier and frillier, but the silhouette is very similar. It looks like Edymar indeed took a liking for Kylie as she was obviously happy handing over her crown to her. I’m so glad that even if I thought Kylie was only performing at 90% potency, it is enough for her beat a formidable batch and clinch the crown.
This year’s batch provided a high standard that would be a tough act to follow for subsequent editions. It will be a tough challenge for national directors to field contenders that will hold up to the ladies that we have seen here, all stage-polished and mostly eloquent. This for me is one of the most exciting Miss International pageants for the ages (even despite the stubbornness to stick to tradition). Anyway, looking forward to see if all the runners-up would be present next year as Kylie hands over her crown to her successor. For now, though, I’m still at a high celebrating her victory.
All images courtesy of Jory Rivera for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.